Autumn is the time of year where staying warm becomes important. No more cool down drinks like White Russians for me. Instead, warm up liquor comes out. That's right, it is brandy time. Drink it by itself. Pour some in your hot cider. It warms the soul.
There are many cheap American brandies, but are any of them any good? I saw Christian Brothers VSOP on sale for 10 dollars. According to the Christian Brothers website, it is a pot still brandy in the French Cognac tradition, and the VSOP is aged 8 years. Wow, sounds like a deal, right? On the way out I saw the tiny little one shot bottle of E & J VSOP for a dollar. I picked it up so I could do a head to head.
Now I haven't had Christian Brothers brandy since I lived and drank with Fisher. Though it seems like only yesterday, it was many years ago. But first up, E & J.
E & J is Ernest and Julio Gallo. You might remember them as purveyors of cheap wines, like my friend Carlo Rossi and the legendary Paisano. 7 dollars for 4 liters of red wine. You might also remember Ernest and Julio as the makers of Boone's farm. Also Bartles and Jaymes.
How does it taste? It tastes ok. It is a little harsh straight from the bottle, but put in some ice and let it melt a bit and the flavors start to become pronounced. You can taste the underlying wine flavors quite a bit. For good or for bad. It is ok, but price for price I think Christian Brothers is a better deal.
Christian Brothers VSOP is also a bit harsh straight up, but as the ice melts the flavors come out well. There is a strong taste of vanilla in this. I read that it comes from the oak. It could be that more years in the barrel make more of a vanilla flavor. It is sweet, and mellow enough. Neither one are likely to give you a hangover. At my liquor store E&J is a dollar more, but isn't a dollar tastier. Also, there is a rebate coupon for Christian Brothers that takes the price of VSOP down to 7 dollars for a fifth. Definitely a deal worth picking up, if for nothing else than spicing up your hot cider.